Leica Rolling Stone
It wasn’t the first time a brash photographer clashed with security at a rock concert, stopped from going backstage without a pass. Jim Marshall, a fierce competitor who would elbow you out of his way to make a picture, was lashing out with his equally sharp and ill-tempered tongue at the bouncers blocking his way. Impresario Bill Graham, who ran the show, overheard the ruckus, intervened, and declared, “Jim Marshall’s face is his backstage pass.”
Indeed, “What a punim!”, as my grandmother would exclaim, referring to a higher order of facial affinity on the cuteness spectrum. But Marshall wasn’t born with that snorkel. His pendulous protuberance, like that of an elephant seal, was a self-inflicted morphological mishap. I used to joke, with no lack of affection, that Jim’s snout deserved an urn of its own when his number came up, a cenotaph for a life lived large and a fortune blown on cocaine. His septum was gone, totally dissolved, allowing his nose to hang on his face like a fishing lure. He could poke a Q-tip in one nostril and out the other, and wasn’t too proud to demonstrate. Only Jim’s Leica camera, much of its black paint worn down to brass by constant use, was equally emblematic of his persona, practically an anatomical appendage itself.
Marshall was a man of conspicuous accomplishments: dozens of record album covers, many hundreds of pictures published in magazines, four hardcover monographs published in his lifetime, additional titles published posthumously, and scores of exhibitions. But he was also a man of conspicuously loathsome behavior when he succumbed to the elixir of bourbon and blow that gave license to his armed and hammered alter ego, Mr. Hyde to his Dr. Jekyll. He was always armed, though, even if he wasn’t hammered, likely to be packing either a pistol or a knife — or both. I think Jim’s subjects tolerated his disposition, menacing or not, in keeping with the zeitgeist of the 1960s, when Jim was in his heyday. Peace and love notwithstanding, some shared an affinity with him for acting out. Dennis Hopper, a pretty good photographer himself, told me ( when I shot his portrait for Time in 1986) that, in part, he modeled the manic…